WRA 110- 12:40
March 12, 2014
I’ve always been the creative, artsy one in the group. My personal sense of style is not influenced by what Vogue magazine says is “in” for the season, but rather based on a sort of vintage appreciation. Getting my first job meant that I got to start dressing myself, so I started working in order to make some money for this purpose. I remembered that my older cousin Lindsay, an MSU alum, told me about shopping at thrift stores at a family barbecue. Not only were clothes super inexpensive, but they had every style of garment you could imagine. Thanks to my cousin, I was hooked. I started frequenting the thrift shops in town to buy my own clothes. If I needed a new pair of shorts, I didn’t head to the mall- but rushed over to my friendly neighborhood Salvation Army. My fascination with the ever-changing history of fashion only grew once I discovered how great thrift shops were. I could get a cool bomber jacket from the 1970’s for cheap! I started watching vintage films and reading about the history of fashion in my spare time.
My freshman year in high school, I vouched to take my final exams early with the graduating seniors because my mom and I, along with other members of our home parish, decided to tag along on a medical mission trip to Haiti following the devastating earthquake that had just previously occurred. The Haitian population was in desperate need of aid, but the corrupt Haitian government wasn’t making any effort to help their people. This trip of a lifetime proved to be much more impactful than I thought in many ways. On the way back from Haiti, my mom and I had a 5 hour layover in the Santo Domingo airport, which is located in the Dominican Republic. The native language there is Spanish. I thought it was super exciting, because I got to show off my Spanish skills to my mom, who doesn’t speak a lick of it! To pass time, we engaged in our favorite activity- shopping. As we entered a duty-free store, I saw the coolest rack of RayBan sunglasses. Immediately, I was drawn to the more vintage styles, such as the RayBan Clubmaster. I spotted this style in a beautiful, classic black with gold trim. As I tried on my first pair… I fell in love. Never have I felt better about a purchase in my life.
Not many people understand the cultural significance of these historic sunglasses. While Ray Bans now can be seen on the next generation of Hollywood fashionistas, these famed sunglasses had a much more humble and practical beginning. Ray Ban sunglasses are the most popular and iconic brand of eyewear to date. Founded in 1937 by Bausch & Lomb, the first RayBan sunglasses weren’t created for style- they were custom-made for the U.S. Army Air Corp. The Army was looking for a pair of sunglasses to protect aviators from the damaging rays of the sun, in addition to looking elegant on the dashing airman of the day. They were the first sunglasses to incorporate an anti-glare lens that filtered out UV rays.
The extremely lightweight frame was made from gold-plated metal. The U.S. Army Air Corps pilots instantly took to the sunglasses, earning Ray-Bans the moniker “Aviator Glasses,” a term still widely used today. From their pragmatic beginnings offering airman protection from the sun, Ray-Bans quickly became part of American fashion and popular culture when, in 1952, Ray Ban broke from traditional “Aviator” and introduced other timeless styles, like the “Clubmaster.” This style is also known as “browline glasses” due to the fact that the bold upper part of the frames frame the glasses in the same way that our eyebrows frame our eyes. Throughout the 50s and 60s, RayBans were the sunglass of choice for everyone from Bob Dylan to Marilyn Monroe, John Lennon and countless average American teenagers who just wanted to look cool on the beach. From Presidents to movie stars, rock stars to artists, fashion designers to runway models, there's not a generation alive that can't remember owning (or wanting to own) a pair of these iconic sunglasses.
While I do believe that RayBans are important due to them being the most revolutionary, timeless pair of eyewear in American history, not everyone can relate to the special bond that my first pair of RayBans and I share. This specific pair means so much to me because we have been been through a lot together. I purchased this pair nearly five years ago- and in these five years, so much has happened to me. These glasses have given me a special inner confidence as I’ve traveled the world, lived through good times and bad, and experienced new and exciting things. Through these lenses, I’ve seen the great city of New York on my sweet 16th birthday, I’ve toured Venice, Italy with some of my best friends, and I’ve had the time of my life at outdoor summer music festivals. This pair has proved that it is always ready to do its job, therefore, I never hesitate to choose them as I reach for a pair of trusty sunglasses. While this pair is getting worn-out and starting to lose its shine, it will never, ever lose its shine in my eyes.
"The Ray Ban Story." Urban Optiques RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Mar. 2014.
"Browline Glasses." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 12 Dec. 2013. Web. 17 Mar. 2014.
"Ray-Ban Official Site - USA." Ray-Ban.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Mar. 2014.